Performance blends tradition and vitality

For their second event this semester, The Great Performance Series invited Cuarteto Latinamericano to the stage, playing alongside the artist Jiji. One may think that a Latin American classical quartet and a South Korean guitarist wouldn’t blend smoothly. However, once the music began, one quickly understands the genius of the combination. The two created an amazing concert that filled the seats of the Jack Miller Center for Musical Arts and entertained everyone present. 

“We were very happy with how the concert went,” says Álvaro Bitrán, cellist for Cuarteto Latinoamericano. He, his two brothers, violinists Saul and Arón Bitrán, and violist Javier Montiel make up the quartet. “The main reason is because this Center for Musical Arts is such an amazing place. For a musician it’s very important to have a hall that sounds good; it gives you a feel of the sound, how it bounces back to you, and then you get more inspiration from it. As opposed to a dry hall, where you have to struggle all the time to make the instruments sound good. And this hall has some of the best acoustics that we have played in for years. This hall could be in Vienna, or Salzburg and we were very surprised to find it in Holland.”

Cuarteto Latinoamericano is not only a talented classical quartet. The Bitrán brothers were born in Chile, and Javier Montiel was born in Mexico City, where the quartet was formed in 1982. The group has been together for decades, for the overlying mission of bringing recognition to Latin American composers. “The name of our group is Cuarteto Latinoamericano, not only because we were born in Latin America, but because we’ve devoted most of our 30+ year careers to bringing this wonderful music—that has been written in Latin America for string quartets—all over the world,” Bitrán says. “To record it, to promote it, to publish it, to play it with other groups, that has been our mission, and we have found some treasured music through it.” The group is dedicated to giving new and lesser known Latin American composers in the classical genre a chance to be heard. For their performance last Thursday, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano played music by Antonio Vivaldi, Héitor Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzolla, Niccolò Paganini, Isaac Albéniz, and Luigi Boccherini. 

Jiji has played guitar since an early age, and at 14 was accepted into the Korea National University of Arts. She is also a regular DJ, and she incorporates electronic dance styles into her own music. Bitráns commented that their manager put together the partnership, and that Cuarteto Latinoamericano thoroughly enjoyed playing with her. “It’s a lot of fun, she’s a very good player. We met her recently, and we’ve only been playing with her for a couple of weeks, but from the first time it was just perfect. As we played, things flowed, and that’s always a good sign.” Her staccato, patterned guitarwork blended extremely well with the impassioned vibrancy of the quartet’s strings. The first piece of the night, Vivaldi’s “Concerto in D Major,” followed by Villa-Lobos’ “String Quartet No. 5” were performed as quintets. Then Piazolla’s “Four for Tango” featured the quartet. Jiji joined again for Paganini’s “Caprice no. 24,” and then performed her own solo to Albéniz’s “Asturias.” Cuarteto Latinoamericano and Jiji concluded the performance with Boccherini’s “Quintet in D Major.”  And then, to great applause, gave an encore performance. “I hope everyone had a good time. Music, after all, is fun.” Bitrán remarks. “I hope they enjoyed the moment, and if it helps keep something in their mind, in their heart and in their memories through longer than tonight, I’ll be very happy.” 

The next Great Performance Series event will be on November 1st, in the Jack Miller Center for Musical Arts. This event features Nobuntu, an all-female a capella group from Zimbabwe. After the first unique, dynamic successes of the semester, students and residents of the Holland community will not want to miss this one. 


Zach Dankert ('21) is one of the Campus Co-Editors at the Anchor.

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